When we met Chef Bruce Kalman last year, I didn’t know what to expect. We were attending a book signing/tasting for Chef Marcus Samuelson near the old Helm’s Bakery. It was the night they also announced that Sherry Yard was bringing it back to life. It was much delight to all the attendees. I’ll let you guys look that one up, but today we’re going to talk about the pickle guy we met that evening. As usual, the hubs and I made friends with other attendees of the event. We were chatting them up and learning about new cool places to eat in LA when they introduced us to Bruce. They were in love with his pickles, and we excitedly tried them. Let me tell you they were delicious. As luck would have it, Bruce also had a pop up restaurant coming within 2 weeks of this meeting so we ran home and signed up for our seats. It was a night that definitely changed my food life.
Chef Bruce Kalman makes the most amazing head and shoulder ragu with homemade tagliatelle that you’ve ever had in your life. You’ve never had it in your life? Then you’re really missing out. I couldn’t even begin to explain it in a way that actually does the dish justice, but I’ll attempt it in a few minutes. It had been awhile since the hubs and I had seen Bruce, but we had thought of him often. I actually wanted the tagliatelle on the menu for the wedding for a while, but we realized it was probably outside of our budget. It would have been so worth it though. Regardless, we squealed when we saw that he had a restaurant in Pasadena, and we immediately booked a reservation. We should not have been so late to this party, but I digress.
When we walked into Union Restaurant Pasadena, I knew we were home. It was the kind of restaurant that so often speaks to us and our own culinary point of view. You know the fresh ingredients and great flavor thing. Plus, it had this amazing feature on the wall for all the local farmer’s markets and what day they were happening. It was probably one of my favorite things, because it was so simple yet informative to the patrons. It was obvious Union Restaurant Pasadena was using fresh ingredients, but it was even more awesome to realize you could do it yourself and when you could pick those things up.
When I finally sat down with the menu, it didn’t take me more than a minute to decide what I was having. The hubs made sure to post all over Facebook the night before about how I was refusing to share my tagliatelle with him. Hey, you can’t steal food from the pregnant lady (at least not when it’s her favorite)! I wanted it, and I was going to have it all. Funny thing is I ended up so full on our appetizers that I had to bring some of it home for lunch the next day. For the record, it warms very well.
We looked over the menu carefully to decide what was best to pair with our main dishes. I got to make most of those decisions because let’s face it there are still a lot of things Sweet Baby J just isn’t a fan of eating. Lucky for me, Baby J was a fan of all the food we ordered, and I didn’t have to make the hubs eat too much.
We started with one of my personal favorite dishes. I always love burrata, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and crostini. This version did not disappoint. There were so many varieties or tomatoes. You can see heirloom, cherry, and grape tomatoes here. The flavor was sweet from the tomatoes that was so delicately cut from the cheese. It’s a light first course that makes you feel refreshed and ready for the heavier dishes.
We then moved onto the pork meatballs made with San Marzo Tomatoes, lardo, and caper berries. These were spicier than I had expected for some reason, but they weren’t so spicy that they overtook your palette. The depth of flavor here was not a surprise to me, but I welcomed it. Plus, I was really starting to get amped up for the main event.
My husband ordered the Porchetta, which we later found out was Chef Kalman’s favorite dish on the menu. It was crispy, tender, savory, and a little sweet. The fat melts in your mouth. The salsa verde sauce added a nice acidic element that really just added that little extra to the dish. It was honestly the kind of dish that hit all the notes you’re looking for a in a main dish from a meal.
Here is the real star for me though. The head and shoulder ragu and fresh tagliatelle. I wish that they had created taste-o-vision or something, because I want to share this with each and every one of you reading this post. The pork melts in your mouth. The tagliatelle has the perfect bite. The herbs are just spicy enough to awaken your mouth but not be overpowering to the real stars of the dish. I could have dreams about this dish.
Now you can see why we were way too full for dessert, but I know that we’ll be going back to Union Restaurant in Pasadena to try more of the food on the menu. Well I guess that is if I can ever tear myself away from the tagliatelle. You should go check it out and let me know how you feel about it. I know you’d feel the same!
When you go out to dinner what are you looking for in a restaurant?